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Multi-layer golf ball


Title: Multi-layer golf ball.
Abstract: Disclosed herein is a multi-layer golf ball having a soft outer cover. The golf ball has an inner cover layer with a Shore D hardness of 60 or more, and an outer cover with a Shore D hardness of 55 or less, and more preferably 50 or less. In a particularly preferred form of the invention, the outer cover comprises one or more polyurethane materials. The golf ball of the invention has exceptionally soft feel and high spin rates on short shots of 80 yards or less, and particularly, 40 yards or less, while maintaining good distance and average spin on full shots. ...

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USPTO Applicaton #: #20100160077 - Class: $ApplicationNatlClass (USPTO) -
Inventors: Thomas J. Kennedy, Iii, Michael T. Tzivanis, Viktor Keller, William M. Risen, Jr., Mark L. Binette, John L. Nealon



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The Patent Description & Claims data below is from USPTO Patent Application 20100160077, Multi-layer golf ball.

CROSS REFERENCES TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application is a continuation application of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/390,926 filed on Feb. 23, 2009 which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/874,489 filed on Oct. 18, 2007 which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/621,032 filed on Jan. 8, 2007 which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/712,942 filed on Nov. 23, 2003, now U.S. Pat. No. 7,160,207, which is a divisional application of U.S. application Ser. No. 09/003,422 filed on Nov. 5, 2001, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,648,777.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

Not Applicable

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

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1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to golf balls and, more particularly, to improved golf balls comprising multi-layer covers which have a hard inner layer and a relatively soft outer layer.

2. Description of the Related Art

Traditional golf ball covers have been comprised of balata or blends of balata with elastomeric or plastic materials. The traditional balata covers are relatively soft and flexible. Upon impact, the soft balata covers compress against the surface of the club producing high spin. Consequently, the soft and flexible balata covers provide an experienced golfer with the ability to apply a spin to control the ball in flight in order to produce a draw or a fade, or a backspin which causes the ball to ‘bite’ or stop abruptly on contact with the green. Moreover the soft balata covers produce a soft “feel” to the low handicap player. Such playability properties (workability, feel, etc.) are particularly important in short iron play with low swing speeds and are exploited significantly by relatively skilled players.

Despite all the benefits of balata, balata covered golf balls are easily cut and/or damaged if mis-hit. Golf balls produced with balata or balata-containing cover compositions therefore have a relatively short life-span.

As a result of this negative property, balata and its synthetic substitutes, trans-polybutadiene and transpolyisoprene, have been essentially replaced as the cover materials of choice by new cover materials comprising ionomeric resins.

Ionomeric resins are polymers containing interchain ionic bonding. As a result of their toughness, durability and flight characteristics, various ionomeric resins sold by E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Company under the trademark “Surlyn®” and more recently, by the Exxon Corporation (see U.S. Pat. No. 4,911,451) under the trademarks “Escor®” and the designation Iotek®, have become the materials of choice for the construction of golf ball covers over the traditional “balata” (transpolyisoprene, natural or synthetic) rubbers. As stated, the softer balata covers, although exhibiting enhanced playability properties, lack the durability (cut and abrasion resistance, fatigue endurance, etc.) properties required for repetitive play.

Ionomeric resins are generally ionic copolymers of an olefin, such as ethylene, and a metal salt of an unsaturated carboxylic acid, such as acrylic acid, methacrylic acid, or maleic acid. Metal ions, such as sodium or zinc, are used to neutralize some portion of the acidic group in the copolymer resulting in a thermoplastic elastomer exhibiting enhanced properties, i.e. durability, etc., for golf ball cover construction over balata. However, some of the advantages gained in increased durability have been offset to some degree by the decreases produced in playability. This is because although the ionomeric resins are very durable, they tend to be very hard when utilized for golf ball cover construction, and thus lack the degree of softness required to impart the spin necessary to control the ball in flight. Since the ionomeric resins are harder than balata, the ionomeric resin covers do not compress as much against the face of the club upon impact, thereby producing less spin. In addition, the harder and more durable ionomeric resins lack the “feel” characteristic associated with the softer balata related covers.

As a result, while there are currently more than fifty (50) commercial grades of ionomers available both from DuPont and Exxon, with a wide range of properties which vary according to the type and amount of metal cations, molecular weight, composition of the base resin (i.e., relative content of ethylene and methacrylic and/or acrylic acid groups) and additive ingredients such as reinforcement agents, etc., a great deal of research continues in order to develop a golf ball cover composition exhibiting not only the improved impact resistance and carrying distance properties produced by the “hard” ionomeric resins, but also the playability (i.e., “spin”, “feel”, etc.) characteristics previously associated with the “soft” balata covers, properties which are still desired by the more skilled golfer.

Consequently, a number of two-piece (a solid resilient center or core with a molded cover) and three-piece (a liquid or solid center, elastomeric winding about the center, and a molded cover) golf balls have been produced to address these needs. The different types of materials utilized to formulate the cores, covers, etc. of these balls dramatically alters the balls' overall characteristics. In addition, multi-layered covers containing one or more ionomer resins have also been formulated in an attempt to produce a golf ball having the overall distance, playability and durability characteristics desired.

This was addressed by Spalding Sports Worldwide, Inc., the assignee of the present invention, in U.S. Pat. No. 4,431,193 where a multi-layered golf ball is produced by initially molding a first cover layer on a spherical core and then adding a second layer. The first layer is comprised of a hard, high flexural modulus resinous material such as type 1605 Surlyn® (now designated Surlyn® 8940). Type 1605 Surlyn® (Surlyn® 8940) is a sodium ion based low acid (less than or equal to 15 weight percent methacrylic acid) ionomer resin having a flexural modulus of about 51,000 psi. An outer layer of a comparatively soft, low flexural modulus resinous material such as type 1855 Surlyn® (now designated Surlyn® 9020) is molded over the inner cover layer. Type 1855 Surlyn® (Surlyn® 9020) is a zinc ion based low acid (10 weight percent methacrylic acid) ionomer resin having a flexural modulus of about 14,000 psi.

The '193 patent teaches that the hard, high flexural modulus resin which comprises the first layer provides for a gain in coefficient of restitution over the coefficient of restitution of the core. The increase in the coefficient of restitution provides a ball which serves to attain or approach the maximum initial velocity limit of 255 feet per second as provided by the United States Golf Association (U.S.G.A.) rules. The relatively soft, low flexural modulus outer layer provides for the advantageous “feel” and playing characteristics of a balata covered golf ball.

In various attempts to produce a durable, high spin ionomer golf ball, the golfing industry has blended the hard ionomer resins with a number of softer ionomeric resins. U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,884,814 and 5,120,791 are directed to cover compositions containing blends of hard and soft ionomeric resins. The hard copolymers typically are made from an olefin and an unsaturated carboxylic acid. The soft copolymers are generally made from an olefin, an unsaturated carboxylic acid, and an acrylate ester. It has been found that golf ball covers formed from hard-soft ionomer blends tend to become scuffed more readily than covers made of hard ionomer alone. It would be useful to develop a golf ball having a combination of softness and durability which is better than the softness-durability combination of a golf ball cover made from a hard-soft ionomer blend.

Most professional golfers and good amateur golfers desire a golf ball that provides distance when hit off a driver, control and stopping ability on full iron shots, and high spin on short “touch and feel” shots. Many conventional two-piece and thread wound performance golf balls have undesirable high spin rates on full shots. The excessive spin on full shots is a sacrifice made in order to achieve more spin which is desired on the shorter touch shots. It would be beneficial to provide a golf ball which has high spin for touch shots without generating excessive spin on full shots.

SUMMARY

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OF THE INVENTION

An object of the invention is to provide a golf ball with a soft cover which has good scuff resistance.

Yet another object of the invention is to provide a golf ball having a favorable combination of spin rate and durability.

A further object of the invention is to provide a golf ball having a soft cover made from a cover material which is blended with minimal mixing difficulties.

Another object of the invention is to provide a method of making a golf ball which has a soft cover with good scuff resistance and cut resistance.

Another object of the invention is to provide a golf ball which has a high spin on shots of 250 feet or less and an average spin on full shots using a 9 iron.

Yet another object of the invention is to provide a method of making a durable golf ball with a relatively high spin rate.

A further object of the invention is to provide a multi-layer golf ball having exceptionally soft feel and high spin rates on short shots while maintaining good distance on full shots.

Yet another object of the invention is to provide a multi-layer golf ball having a high spin rate on short shots and not having an excessive spin rate on long shots.

Other objects will be in part obvious and in part pointed out more in detail hereafter.

In a first aspect, the present invention provides a golf ball, comprising a core, a thermoplastic inner cover layer formed over the core, the inner cover layer having a Shore D hardness of at least 60 as measured on the surface thereof, and an outer cover layer formed over the inner cover layer, the outer cover layer having a Shore D hardness of no more than 55 as measured on the surface thereof, the golf ball having a PGA compression of 100 or less and a coefficient of restitution of at least 0.770.

In another aspect, the present invention provides a golf ball comprising a core, an inner cover layer formed over the core, and an outer cover layer formed over the inner cover layer. The inner cover layer has a Shore D hardness of at least 60 as measured on the curved surface thereof and is formed of a composition including at least one material selected from the group of consisting of polyphenylene ether/ionomer blends, ionomers, polyamides, polyurethanes, polyester elastomers, polyester amides, metallocene catalyzed polyolefins, and blends thereof. The outer cover layer has a Shore D hardness of no more than 55 as measured on the curved surface thereof. The golf ball has a spin factor of about 5, a PGA compression of 100 or less, and a coefficient of restitution of at least 0.770.

In yet another aspect, the present invention provides a golf ball comprising an inner ball and an outer cover layer formed over the inner ball. The inner ball comprises a core and an inner cover layer disposed about the core. The inner ball has a coefficient of restitution of at least 0.780. The outer cover layer has a Shore D hardness of no more than 55 as measured on the Curved surface thereof. The golf ball has a coefficient of restitution of at least 0.770 and a PGA compression of 100 or less.

In a further aspect, the present invention provides a golf ball comprising a core, an inner cover layer disposed about the core, and an outer cover layer disposed about the inner cover layer. The inner cover layer has a Shore D hardness of at least 60 as measured on the curved surface thereof and comprises at least one material selected from the group consisting of polyphenylene ether/ionomer blends, ionomers, polyamides, polyurethanes, polyester elastomers, polyester amides, metallocene catalyzed polyolefins, and blends thereof. The outer cover layer has a Shore D hardness of no more than 55 as measured on the curved surface thereof and comprises at least one material selected from the group consisting of polyphenylene ether/ionomer blends, ionomers, polyamides, polyurethanes, polyester elastomers, polyester amides, metallocene catalyzed polyolefins, and blends thereof. The golf ball has a PGA compression of 100 or less and a coefficient of restitution of at least 0.770.

The invention accordingly comprises the several steps and the relation of one or more of such steps with respect to each of the others and the articles possessing the features, properties, and the relation of elements exemplified in the following detailed disclosure.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

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The following is a brief description of the drawings, which are presented for the purposes of illustrating the invention and not for the purposes of limiting the same.

FIG. 1 is a cross-sectional view of a golf ball embodying the invention illustrating a core 10 and a cover 12 consisting of an inner layer 14 and an outer layer 16 having dimples 18; and

FIG. 2 is a diametrical cross-sectional view of a golf ball of the invention having a core 10 and a cover 12 made of an inner layer 14 and an outer layer 16 having dimples 18.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

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OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The present invention relates to improved multi-layer golf balls, particularly a golf ball comprising a multi-layered cover 12 over a solid core 10, and method for making same. The golf balls of the invention, which can be of a standard or enlarged size, have a unique combination of high coefficient of restitution and a high spin rate on short shots.

The core 10 of the golf ball can be formed of a solid, a liquid, or any other substance which will result in an inner ball, i.e. core and inner cover layer, having the desired COR, compression and hardness. The multi-layered cover 12 comprises two layers: a first or inner layer or ply 14 and a second or outer layer or ply 16. The inner layer 14 can be ionomer, ionomer blends, non-ionomer, non-ionomer blends, or blends of ionomer and non-ionomer. The outer layer 16 is softer than the inner layer and can be ionomer, ionomer blends, non-ionomer, non-ionomer blends or blends of ionomer and non-ionomer.

In a first preferred embodiment, the inner layer 14 is comprised of a high acid (i.e. greater than 16 weight percent acid) ionomer resin or high acid ionomer blend. Preferably, the inner layer is comprised of a blend of two or more high acid (i.e. at least 16 weight percent acid) ionomer resins neutralized to various extents by different metal cations. The inner cover layer may or may not include a metal stearate (e.g., zinc stearate) or other metal fatty acid salt. The purpose of the metal stearate or other metal fatty acid salt is to lower the cost of production without affecting the overall performance of the finished golf ball. In a second embodiment, the inner layer 14 is comprised of a low acid (i.e. 16 weight percent acid or less) ionomer blend. Preferably, the inner layer is comprised of a blend of two or more low acid (i.e. 16 weight percent acid or less) ionomer resins neutralized to various extents by different metal cations. The inner cover layer may or may not include a metal stearate (e.g., zinc stearate) or other metal fatty acid salt.

It has been found that a hard inner layer provides for a substantial increase in resilience (i.e., enhanced distance) over known multi-layer covered balls. The softer outer layer provides for desirable “feel” and high spin rate while maintaining respectable resiliency. The soft outer layer allows the cover to deform more during impact and increases the area of contact between the club face and the cover, thereby imparting more spin on the ball. As a result, the soft cover provides the ball with a balata-like feel and playability characteristics with improved distance and durability. Consequently, the overall combination of the inner and outer cover layers results in a golf ball having enhanced resilience (improved travel distance) and durability (i.e. cut resistance, etc.) characteristics while maintaining and in many instances, improving, the playability properties of the ball.

The combination of a hard inner cover layer with a soft, relatively low modulus ionomer, ionomer blend or other non-ionomeric thermoplastic elastomer outer cover layer provides for excellent overall coefficient of restitution (i.e., excellent resilience) because of the improved resiliency produced by the inner cover layer. While some improvement in resiliency is also produced by the outer cover layer, the outer cover layer generally provides for a more desirable feel and high spin, particularly at lower swing speeds with highly lofted clubs such as half wedge shots.

Inner Cover Layer

The inner cover layer is harder than the outer cover layer and generally has a thickness in the range of 0.01 to 0.15 inches, preferably 0.01-0.10 inches, more preferably 0.03 to 0.07 inches for a 1.68 inch ball and 0.05 to 0.10 inches for a 1.72 inch (or more) ball. The core and inner cover layer together form an inner ball having a coefficient of restitution of 0.780 or more and more preferably 0.790 or more, and a diameter in the range of 1.48-1.66 inches for a 1.68 inch ball and 1.50-1.70 inches for a 1.72 inch (or more) ball. The inner cover layer has a Shore D hardness of 60 or more. It is particularly advantageous if the golf balls of the invention have an inner layer with a Shore D hardness of 65 or more. The above-described characteristics of the inner cover layer provide an inner ball having a PGA compression of 100 or less. It is found that when the inner ball has a PGA compression of 90 or less, excellent playability results.

The inner layer compositions of the embodiments described herein may include the high acid ionomers such as those developed by E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Company under the trademark Surlyn® and by Exxon Corporation under the trademark Escor® or tradename Iotek®, or blends thereof. Examples of compositions which may be used as the inner layer herein are set forth in detail in U.S. Ser. No. 08/174,765, now abandoned, which is a continuation of U.S. Ser. No. 07/776,803 filed Oct. 15, 1991, now abandoned, and Ser. No. 08/493,089, issued as U.S. Pat. No. 5,688,869, which is a continuation of Ser. No. 07/981,751; now abandoned, which in turn is a continuation of Ser. No. 07/901,660 filed Jun. 19, 1992, now abandoned, all of which are incorporated herein by reference. Of course, the inner layer high acid ionomer compositions are not limited in any way to those compositions set forth in said copending applications.

The high acid ionomers which may be suitable for use in formulating the inner layer compositions of the subject invention are ionic copolymers which are the metal, i.e., sodium, zinc, magnesium, etc., salts of the reaction product of an olefin having from about 2 to 8 carbon atoms and an unsaturated monocarboxylic acid having from about 3 to 8 carbon atoms. Preferably, the ionomeric resins are copolymers of ethylene and either acrylic or methacrylic acid. In some circumstances, an additional comonomer such as an acrylate ester (i.e., iso- or n-butylacrylate, etc.) can also be included to produce a softer terpolymer. The carboxylic acid groups of the copolymer are partially neutralized (i.e., approximately 10-100%, preferably 30-70%) by the metal ions. Each of the high acid ionomer resins which may be included in the inner layer cover compositions of the invention contains greater than about 16% by weight of a carboxylic acid, preferably from about 17% to about 25% by weight of a carboxylic acid, more preferably from about 18.5% to about 21.5% by weight of a carboxylic acid.

Although the inner layer cover composition preferably includes a high acid ionomeric resin and the scope of the patent embraces all known high acid ionomeric resins falling within the parameters set forth above, only a relatively limited number of these high acid ionomeric resins have recently become commercially available.

The high acid ionomeric resins available from Exxon under the designation Escor® and or Iotek®, are somewhat similar to the high acid ionomeric resins available under the Surlyn® trademark. However, since the Escor®/Iotek® ionomeric resins are sodium or zinc salts of poly(ethylene-acrylic acid) and the Surlyn® resins are zinc, sodium, magnesium, etc. salts of polyethylene-methacrylic acid), distinct differences in properties exist.

Examples of the high acid methacrylic acid based ionomers found suitable for use in accordance with this invention include Surlyn® 8220 and 8240 (both formerly known as forms of Surlyn® AD-8422), Surlyn® 9220 (zinc cation), Surlyn® SEP-503-1 (zinc cation), and Surlyn® SEP-503-2 (magnesium cation). According to DuPont, all of these ionomers contain from about 18.5 to about 21.5% by weight methacrylic acid.

More particularly, Surlyn® AD-8422 is currently commercially available from DuPont in a number of different grades (i.e., AD-8422-2, AD-8422-3, AD-8422-5, etc.) based upon differences in melt index. According to DuPont, Surlyn® 8422, which is believed recently to have been redesignated as 8220 and 8240, offers the following general properties when compared to Surlyn® 8920, the stiffest, hardest of all on the low acid grades (referred to as “hard” ionomers in U.S. Pat. No. 4,884,814):

TABLE 1 HIGH ACID LOW ACID (>20 wt % Acid)


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stats Patent Info
Application #
US 20100160077 A1
Publish Date
06/24/2010
Document #
12715264
File Date
03/01/2010
USPTO Class
473354
Other USPTO Classes
473373, 473385, 473365
International Class
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Drawings
2


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